The 8 Most Influential Conversations of 2018

Conversations with Tyler grew bigger and smarter this year, one conversation at a time. 

In 2018 alone, the podcast was downloaded millions of times and featured twenty-seven of the best-known thinkers and doers in the world, including three Nobel Prize winners. 

As we reflect on 2018 and move into a new year of listening and gaining knowledge, we wanted to highlight eight of our favorite #CowenConvos episodes of 2018.

Vitalik Buterin on Cryptoeconomics and Markets in Everything (Ep. 45)

At the intersection of programming, economics, cryptography, distributed systems, information theory, and math, you will find Vitalik Buterin, who has managed to synthesize insights across those fields into successful, real-world applications like Ethereum, which aims to decentralize the Internet. Tyler sat down with Vitalik to discuss the many things he’s thinking about and working on, including the nascent field of cryptoeconomics, the best analogy for understanding the blockchain, and much more.

Paul Romer on the Unrivaled Joy of Scholarship (Ep. 55)

Throughout his career, Paul Romer has enjoyed sifting through an ever-growing body of knowledge. He sometimes jokingly refers to himself as a random idea generator, relying on others to filter out the bad ones so his contributions are good. Not a bad strategy, as it turns out, for starting a successful business and winning a Nobel Prize. Just before accepting that Prize, Romer joined Tyler for a conversation including the best policies for growth and innovation, his new thinking on the trilemma facing migration,  reworking higher education, and unlocking the power of reading for all kids.

Eric Schmidt on the Life-Changing Magic of Systematizing, Scaling, and Saying Thanks (Ep. 53)

The son of an economist, Eric Schmidt eschewed his father’s profession, first studying architecture before settling on computer science and eventually earning a PhD. Now one of the most influential technology executives in the world, he credits his interest in network economies and platforms for a large part of his success. In this live event hosted by Village Global in San Francisco, Tyler questioned Schmidt about underused management strategies, what Google learned after interviewing one job candidate sixteen times, and his opinion on early vs. late Picasso.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb on Self-Education and Doing the Math (Ep. 41)

Philosopher, mathematician, and author of Skin in the Game, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, participated in a live conversation with Tyler in May. They discuss the ancient Phoenicians and the Greco-Roman heritage of Lebanon, genetics, the advantages of Twitter fights, defining religion, fancy food vs. Auntie Anne’s pretzels, and why Taleb refused to give a book tour.

Daniel Kahneman on Cutting Through the Noise (Ep. 56)

These days, “noise” might be the concept most on Daniel Kahneman’s mind. His forthcoming book, coauthored with Cass Sunstein and “a brilliant Frenchman you haven’t heard of,” dives into how random variability affects decision making. While we’ve spent a lot of time studying how bias causes errors in judgment, Kahneman says, we aren’t thinking nearly enough about the problem of noise. In November, Kahneman joined Tyler for a live conversation about bias, happiness, memory, and the replication crisis in psychology.

Agnes Callard on the Theory of Everything (Ep. 38)

Is a written dialogue the best way to learn from University of Chicago philosopher and author Agnes Callard? If so, what does that say about philosophy? In April, she joined Tyler for a conversation about these questions, the best way to learn, Plato’s Symposium and its relation to love and intoxication, “good” versus “bad” people, fearing death, and how we get ourselves to care about things.

Martina Navratilova on Shaping Herself (Ep. 37)

Martina Navratilova is one of the greatest tennis players of all time. No one has won more matches than her thanks to an astonishing 87 percent win rate over a long and dominant career. In their conversation, she and Tyler cover her career, her experience defecting from Czechoslovakia and later becoming a dual citizen, the wage gap in tennis competition and commentary, and gender stereotypes in sports.

David Brooks on Youth, Morality, and Loneliness (Ep. 42)

David Brooks, columnist for The New York Times and best-selling author, joined Tyler for a live conversation at George Mason University. For two hours every morning, Brooks crawls around his living room floor, organizing piles of research. Then, the piles become paragraphs, the paragraphs become columns or chapters, and the process — which he calls “writing” — is complete. After that, he might go out and see some people to discuss the things they’re thinking, writing, and learning about. On Conversations with Tyler, the pair discussed being a modern-day Whig, covenants vs. contracts, why failure is overrated, and the “Eleanor Rigby” question.

Want to learn through listening even more? Luckily for you, Conversations with Tyler has 48 more episodes that are self-recommending. Make sure to register for our newsletter to receive the latest updates, including episode and live event announcements.